Human Events, January 14, 2002, p. 12.
 

Conservative Spotlight
BY JOSEPH A. D’AGOSTINO



American Coalition for Fathers & Children

 “There has never been a study that shows fathers are deserting their
children in large numbers,” says Prof. Stephen Baskerville.  What about the
midlife crisis divorce for a younger woman, fatherless families, deadbeat
dads?  Baskerville says these issues are surrounded by myth.
 “Courts routinely order fathers, whose children have been take from them
involuntarily and with no ground s, to support those children financially.
The can and do summon fathers to court so frequently that they lose their
jobs and then incarcerate them for failure to pay child support.  Courts
these days will even order men to support children who are acknowledged not
to be theirs. . . .,” he wrote in The Women’s Quarterly (Winter 1999).  “An
October series in the Los Angeles Times reported that in Los Angeles alone
there are 350 new cases each month of men required to support children who
are established by DNA testing not to be theirs.”
 The stereotype of the divorce – man divorces middle-aged wife and abandons
the children she has borne him for a younger woman – is false, said
Baskerville, who teaches political science at Howard University.
Baskerville said in a recent interview that, according to Divorced Dads:
Shattering the Myths by Sanford Braver, “about two-thirds of divorces of
couples with children are desired by the mothers, not the fathers.  The
figure might be much higher.”
 With 1.5 million divorces each year, three-fifths of them involving
children, and only one-fifth being mutual – in 80% of divorces, one spouse
is opposed to it – that’s a lot of broken homes.  “About 85% to 90% of the
time, primary custody of the children is given to mothers,” said
Baskerville.  Fathers are often excluded entirely from seeing their
children, even when no evidence that they committed any crime is presented,
he said.  In fact, he said, very rarely is a man proved guilty of any crime
in a divorce, whether it is abandonment, domestic violence, adultery or
anything else.
 A major portion of the intellectual firepower behind the father’s rights
movement, Baskerville serves on the board of advisers of the American
Coalition for Fathers & Children (ACFC), which has sought to inject equity
into America’s family court system since 1996.  “The single most important
criterion in who files for divorce is who will get custody,” Baskerville
explained.  Mothers who want to skip out on the fathers of their children
have little incentive not to, he said.  “They do not have to show fault.
They get custody.  They get alimony and child support.  Their divorced
husbands even have to pay their attorney’s fees in the divorce,” he said.
“They have nothing to lose.”
 The stereotype of the so-called deadbeat dad is also false, he said.
“Eighty-one per cent of men under child support orders were married
 fathers,” he said.  “The child support orders are often so large the men
cannot afford to remarry.  So they don’t pay.  Many of them never see their
children anyway.”
 One reason this institutionalized injustice against fathers should be of
concern to all:  “For crime, drug use, alcoholism, and teen pregnancy, the
strongest level of correlation is to fatherless families,” Baskerville said,
“more than income or race.  A poor black child with a father has a better
chance of avoiding a life of crime than a rich white child without a
 father.”
 “We help non-custodial parents when they are having difficulties with
regard to visitation, child support,” said Dianna Thompson, executive
director of ACFC, which has 45,000 members.  “We have affiliate
organizations located all over the country.  These chapters do grassroots
lobbying to change laws and policies in their states.”
 “The father can be jailed without trial for not paying child support or his
ex-wife’s attorney’s fees,” Baskerville said.  Of course, of any amounts
courts wring out of men, “the state gets a cut,” Baskerville said.  That a
lot of cuts: 17-19 million fathers are under child support orders, he said.
 Though it may be that mothers have financial and other incentives to
divorce the fathers of their children, the question remains, why do they
desire it in such large numbers?  “That’s an interesting questions,” said
Baskerville.  One anthropological theory holds that “unless the mother
derives benefit from the union, the union does not take place,” he said.
“The welfare state, police protection for families, forced child support
mean that mothers may see little benefit in their unions.”
 If family breakdown continues the way it has, said Baskerville, the
civilization itself is at stake.  “The father is the weakest link in the
family,” he said.  “There is a natural connection between mother and child.
The father forms the nuclear family, which many people say is the basis for
civilization.”